Wednesday, 1 June 2011

The City Consumes Us

“Streets like the rest of them, that I can't forget. Faces familiar and full of regret. I hated this place and all who came from it.” - 'The City Consumes Us' – The Delgados.

I am back, back in the city where sterile, plastic happiness is the pinnacle of one's dreams and aspirations. It's a place where you surrender five figures' worth of cash to park your posterior in a room full of vapid, preening never-will-be's while badly produced music that is as ill-conceived as the surrounding decorations pollutes the air quicker than the overpriced limousine that brought you here.

Give me a dingy bar that plays 50's blues until 3am and has but four patrons then forces me to walk home in the rain any day of the week. At least then I won't have to stand behind the girl in the taxi queue at the Venetian who is telling her friend she isn't going to date this guy who she previously describes in such fantastic terms that I thought he was a cross between Jesus and Superman. Why? Well, mainly because he “...isn't working over the summer and won't have that much money.” The irony of that statement become even more deliciously clear as she asks the taxi driver to drop her and her expensive-looking shoes at the Encore resort.

The nearest I have is the media meet-up at the Gold Coast, an event which was almost completely ruined by a very drunk local who called himself 'C-Dog' and attempted to challenge my knowledge of Doctor Who. It didn't take long for C-Dog to become C-Sick then simply C-U-Later as security got bored of his loud and fairly aggressive antics. As he was escorted out I resisted the urge to shout out, “How can David Tennant be your favourite Doctor? You boring bastard! Everyone knows Tom Baker was CLEARLY the best Doctor!” (Though I had to agree with his earlier statement that “There better be a black Doctor soon or this shit gonna get real.”)

Nothing really has changed since my last visit, walking down the strip at 3am, you'll still see the familiar sites of a child screaming, surprisingly it is not because of the ungodly hour that his brain-dead parents have decided to drag the impudent sprog around at. No, it's because his dad has decided his only mission (presumably having already blown the family savings on Pai Gow earlier) is to consume his son's (un)healthily gigantic ice-cream, savouring a last sugar rush before he creates his own hastily made cardboard sign and collapses to the roadside, begging for divine assistance. Like the city itself, they eat their own young here, Goya would feel vindicated.

Even the stories remain the same, it's just the little details that have changed. I'm reminded of Benjo's story of French players paying hookers with tournament chips as the taxi driver tells me the story of the girl he picked up from Ballys yesterday morning.

The girl claimed to have no money and told the driver that her boyfriend would be the one to pay when he met her. With the ride underway it didn't take long for the lady to show the driver the $7,000 worth of chips she had laid back for and asked if they can go via 'The Dunes' so she can cash them out. Our taxi driver friend pointed out that the Dunes had been knocked down years ago to be replaced by the Bellagio. The chips were clearly bygone souvenirs that had be passed on by a wily punter.

"Ok, so can I cash them out at the Bellagio?"She had asked with a hint of urgency.

The taxi driver told her that the Bellagio had nothing to do with the Dunes, it was built by Steve Wynn.

“Steve Wynn? So I can change them at the Wynn then?” came the desperate reply as the taxi unsympathetically drove her on to her waiting 'boyfriend' – the latter most likely being the rest of the cab ride plus about two minutes from a screaming fit.

New decade. Same old shit.

Off to cover the O8 event tomorrow, it's the Buick Skylark of poker games.

Song of the day, 'The City Consumes Us' – The Delgados. Obviously.

Wednesday, 27 January 2010

You Can Go Your Own Way...

So like Johann Sebastian, I'm back only I'm sitting in the domestic terminal in Auckland. Last couple of weeks were really hectic at the Aussie Millions, made some good news friends though and saw some people I hadn't spoken to for a while. Anyway, I left Australia today after a couple of days in Sydney, was there for Australia Day. Amazing how such a laid back bunch of people got so patriotic all of a sudden, I've always been in the 'Patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel' camp.

So originally, the plan was for Dan and I to go to Auckland and hang out there for a week, but then we talked about hiring a car and driving around, finally I decided, fuck it, I want to go lots of cool random things. I increased the days in NZ from 7 to 11 and in Fiji from 11 to 14, shortening my Hawaii escapade to just 3 or 4 days but I think it'll prove to be the right decision.

I've decided to do a couple of backpacking tours, which might take me out of my comfort zone a little but that's mainly the point. Dan decided he'd rather travel around the North Island and play lots of golf which is cool but not something I'm interested in. So he's sticking to the original itinerary and I'm on a new one and we'll catch up in Hawaii.

I'm not that worried, when I originally planned to travel alone this was the kind of thing I was going to day. I think staying Melbourne with Dan was too comfortable and more of a laze-around holiday for me than I should've done. Now I've signed up to two week-long backpacking tours in New Zealand and Fiji and I've become much more excited about it all. Booked an...80 pound return flight from Christchurch to Auckland (the pause was for me looking for the pound sign on this computer and not finding one) and staying in a hostel for next to nothing.

3 people separately have told me to go to Queenstown while someone else said do the TranzAlpine Train Ride. The trip I'm doing does both of these things and it's all called 'Back Paddock' which gives it an amusingly dirty name for no reason whatsoever. That kinda sealed the deal for me.

After that it's on to Fiji for a couple of weeks for another trip which also should be good fun. I've got no idea what's going to happen over the next 3 and a half weeks, and I actually like that.

Song of the Day: Emilia Torrini - Jungle Drum

Tuesday, 12 January 2010

A Gulfin' (sic) Class At The Driving Range

Played golf for the first time ever. I hit one ball 150 yards and about 150 balls one yard.

It's a stupid game.

No wonder Tiger Woods spends all his time banging slightly grotesque-looking women.

Song of the day: Eels - Souljacker (Hadn't heard this song in ages, still sounds brilliant)

Sunday, 10 January 2010

Surrealness Follows

And I said, "You know we were one moment away from a surreal comedy sketch there..."

We're in the wrong place, it's been decided. Thursday night saw Dan and I go out in St. Kilda, a surburb slightly to the south of Melbourne's city centre which doesn't have quite as many drugs and crack whores meaning it's become less fun and more touristy. In a way it's like the sea that surrounds it, beautifully looking but still full of stinging jellyfish.

Dan had met some people while playing golf with Michael Greco and we ended up at a place called the Vineyard right in the maelstromic centre of what was ostensibly 'Partyville'.

I've never properly met Michael Greco before but he's always seemed a fairly surly type at the poker table, however I was totally wrong as away from the table he's actually one of the friendliest people around. Despite having left Eastenders maybe seven years ago, he still gets stopped 3 or 4 times a night to take photos, and then deal with a lot of drunken shit we gave him such as a) Singing the first verse of Brian Adams' "Everything I Do' at him after he declared he'd just seen the girl of his dreams a couple of tables over and then walked over there to talk to her and then b) Random Eastender themes whenever he was chatting up other women.

The most surreal moment though occurred at the Espy, a proper 'Aussie' bar. We'd walked from the Vineyard with Greco bring a blonde girl who was about two drinks from either passing out or turning into Glenn Close in Fatal Attraction. It looked like a toss-up. Dan had lost his driving license (most unlike him). Adam and Alex were smoking outside which left Greco, Paul and myself inside standing around having a drink. At this point a woman turned up with a man tagging along behind her. Semi-attractive? Maybe. Semi-biker? Quite possibly. Semi-drunk? Almost definitely. Semi-sane? I couldn't answer.

She immediately recognised Greco and moved right up close to him, ignoring the traditional unspoken rules of personal space, one hand interlocked with his the other on his arse. The man just stood there next to them with a slight glower.

I stood there thinking almost in slow motion, "Is...that...guy...her...boyfriend?" as Greco and the girl's faces were about an inch apart. The Holmes inside of me twigged when I saw they both had matching tattoo's on their left arms, and all I could think of was that scene in The Office where they go to a nightclub and Gareth gets taken home by that couple...

Soon though the woman left while the man followed glowering at Greco as he did so, I went over to Greco and I said, "You know we were one moment away from a surreal comedy sketch there..."

He gave me a slightly relieved look and said, "Yeah, just one minute away..." We then both turned to look and standing there was the drunken blonde girl Greco had brought over from the Vineyard. She promptly collapsed. The sketch was complete.

Song of the day: She Said What? - The Quantic Soul Orchestra

Wednesday, 6 January 2010

Guitar Heroes

New Years was a washout, an unbelievably disappointing night that was a real downer as Dan, Jenny (girl I know from Leeds who has just moved to Melbourne) and I supped the night away at the Belgian Beer Cafe by the edge of the Yarra river during the middle of the Australian summer.

It was poured with rain, non-stop for about 5 hours between 9pm and 2am (also known as the hours that matter) and for a cafe based around Belgian Beer, serving Stella on tap doesn't endear you to a snob like me.

Anyway a complete lack of posts from me is based on the fact I've been dealing with some personal issues and the joyfulness that is self-assesment tax returns. Those erudite warrior-poets NWA were right, "life ain't nothin' but bitches and money."

Everything is better now because last night I went to see Rodrigo Y Gabriela. Oh yes. You see everyone one band/artist that they just adore, the Mexican duo via Dublin are mine. Simply put, by seeing them you'll bear witness to a whole new level of mind-boggling guitar awesomeness. (See also Kaki King, Robert Randolph and John Butler)

Rodrigo supplies the lead wonderfully, but it's Gabriela who is simply mesmeric to watch, her fingers are like waves over the guitar, moving so quickly you can scarcely believe it. Add to this that the pair will turn the guitars into percussion drums at the same time, it's just impossible to do justice to it all with mere words.

Although we were in a theatre, it didn't stop people standing up and dancing despite efforts from some security people to get them to sit down but then a wonderful thing happened. In the front rows five or six people stood up, clapping and enjoying themselves, naturally this meant the people behind couldn't see and now had to get up whether they wanted to or not. From this a wonderful ripple-effect took place as within 10 seconds the entire theatre was on it's feet as one. It was magical.

They have a wonderful quirky charm about them, the Irish tinge in their voices as they speak in English is still easy to spot - that and every other word they use is 'focking'. Their interaction with the audience is warm and funny but with underlying love and purity of what they do. I've seen so many bands that are cynical in their approach to music, leaving songs empty and meaningless, but when Rodrigo Y Gabriela tell you to get up and join the party, it's because they just want you to have as much fun as they're having.

Song of the day: Rodrigo Y Gabriela - Diablo Rojo

Tuesday, 29 December 2009

Upper Class Nun

Only my second post and I've already slackened, but the truth is I've been recovering from jet-lag and feeling ill, which is generally making me pretty miserable. Then I remind myself I'm on holiday and should really pull it together.

If you're ever traveling to Australia from London and I do recommend it, make sure you have a decent stop before doing the second leg of your journey. The eight hour trip from Hong Kong to Melbourne just seemed to go on forever yet with a fairly predictable ending, making it similar in many respects to Avatar.

I managed to get some sleep during the first journey before Dan and I played some Chinese poker (shown right along with some masterful Carter doodling) where I finished up 20 points (steady now, it was only $1 a point). Then a quick changearound in Hong Kong where we forced to disembark and then get back on the same plane. The highlight of this though was us waiting in economy before we saw a nun walk straight through into the plane into first class! So, now you know what the Church spends it's money on, it's for nuns to go partying and drinking with Megadeath and the like on long-haul flights.

Anyway, it's probably a not bad advert for the church:

"Join the Nunnery and you'll be in Frequent Flyer Mile Heaven!"

The second flight saw me run terrible in Chinese Poker to Dan, who seemed quite happy to hit quads every hand and still have room to fit in full houses in the middle. One of the variants we played was that we had to swap a card before making our hands, in one hand I was delighted when Dan dumped me with a deuce to give me quads for the card I had given him. Slightly less good was the fact I'd given him the case nine to make bigger quads.

We also decided to play a game of blind Omaha, best of five to see who got the en-suite master bedroom, which became mine after a brief 3-1 victory bwahahah.

After over a days travel though we had finally arrived in Australia.

As Martin Lawrence would say, "This shit just got real..."

Song of the day: XTC - Senses Working Overtime

Sunday, 27 December 2009

LarsLuzak Owes Me A Simpsons DVD...

So, like a bad stableboy I'm closing the gate to the non-blogging world long after the fadhorse (Fad Horse, Fad Horse, Fad Horse, he's Fad!) has left the internet barn.

My good friend Benjo suggested I should write...something about my travels and travails given that I'm going on a trip around the Pacific for a couple of months. I'll be avoiding all work and generally wasting decent amounts of money while gaining, I don't want to say 'life experience', as I abhor that phrase but something hopefully tantamount to experiencing memories in the present rather having to wistfully remember them in the future.

In a few hours, I'll be jetting off from Heathrow, an airport that pretty much works like a water sprinkler, spraying people in every direction. That will be Sunday morning, but we won't arrive until Monday night local time. Originally I was going to just go on my own but now traveling with me is this man. So at least one of us can refer to themselves as a 'poker player'. Meanwhile I've emptied most of my accounts, leaving around $1500 in my Stars account for now, I'd be insulting myself if I did all this traveling and then spent most of it playing online.

The travel dates are as follows:
27th December: Heathrow >> 28th December: Melbourne
27th January: Sydney >> Auckland
3rd February: Auckland >> Nadi (Fiji)
14th February: Nadi (Fiji) >> Honolulu
24th February: Honolulu >> San Francisco
28th February: San Francisco >> Las Vegas
3rd March: Las Vegas >> 4th March: Heathrow

Anyway if I can distill just a fraction of these precious times then it will be worthwhile, I may be an average sieve, but this river is big enough that even I should be able to find some gold.

Song of the day: Killin' - The Apples

And yes, LarsLusak borrowed a Simpsons DVD from me at EPT London and I still haven't got it back yet. I got grimmed. :(